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Drama: A superior form of comedy?

Drama: A superior form of comedy? (photo)

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A couple of weeks ago, a friend told me I didn’t like comedians; after a little thought, I had concede this is basically true. We were talking about Jane Lynch and Will Ferrell and the day’s other leading comic luminaries, all of whom basically grate on me; while they’re performing, they give off this air of knowing how funny they are, which bothers me. I was and remain a big fan of a lot of the ’70s comics (Steve Martin at his peak, the original “SNL” cast, etc.), but you rarely get that sense of complacency off them. My problem? Sure, but I can’t be the only one.

I was thinking about this when last week another friend proposed you could measure a dramatic actor’s true worth by their adeptness at comedy. I disagree, but it made me think about how most of my favorite comedies star people who aren’t necessarily comedians. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule: I like the Marx Brothers as much as the next guy, most of the Apatow crew and, yeah, Paul Rudd, all of whom aren’t usually noted for their dramatic change-ups.

However, a lot of my favorite comedies star people who aren’t necessarily comedians. “Dazed And Confused” is something I watch about four times a year (it’s like Prozac but far more effective), and — Adam Goldberg aside — it either stars people who went nowhere or a few people whose comic careers should’ve been bigger (Matthew McConaughey, never better) or never took off (Ben Affleck, ditto). Then again, that’s not exactly a gut-buster.

01282010_BadSanta1.jpgSo how about “Tootsie”? Sydney Pollack approached it like it was Chekhov, and it worked brilliantly. Or “Bad Santa,” which makes me laugh harder than anything, starring Billy Bob Thornton? Also, granted, Bernie Mac and John Ritter are onhand as support, but they’re all on the same page. Or how about, I dunno, the entirety of last year, where I laughed more than I had in a long time — “In The Loop,” “Up,” “Adventureland” (not exactly a 100% comedy, but work with me here), “Harmony and Me,” “Humpday” — all movies where traditionally dramatic players find the humor in situations, rather than initiate it, to brilliant effect.

Obviously, I’ve got a mental block when it comes to films that are built around a comedian’s sensibilities — in fact, I prefer comedies driven by the director’s sensibility rather than servicing the needs of the comic center, but I’ve noticed I also prefer comic actors rather than straight up comedians acting. They seem to work harder for the laughs without taking them for granted; the best make it look effortless. Surely I’m not the only one?

[Photos: album cover of “A Wild and Crazy Guy,” Warner Bros. Records, 1978; “Bad Santa,” Dimension Films, 2003.]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.